Deciding whether a young child should attend a funeral can be a difficult decision. Death is upsetting to deal with at any age, and parents and caregivers naturally want to protect children from pain. But funerals are a vital part of the grieving process, and children also need the opportunity to say goodbye. With the following tips, you can prepare children for a funeral service.
Help Them Understand Death
Death is something we all must come to understand, and it’s best for a child to learn the information from a parent or caregiver. When you have the discussion, use simple, honest language. It’s also important to take the child’s age and maturity level into account. Elementary school-aged children understand basic concepts, while older children can understand more complexities.
Listen and Be Attentive
Pay attention to the child’s reactions and listen carefully to their responses. Every child reacts differently to the news that a loved one has died, and there is no correct response to learning about death. Offer reassurance and let the child know that you want to hear about their thoughts and feelings.
Answer Their Questions
Asking questions is one way that children process information. When your child asks you about the deceased or the funeral, answer them honestly. It’s also okay to admit if you don’t know the answer. Instead, you can learn and process the situation together.
Ask Them How They Want to Remember the Deceased
Sharing happy memories and finding special ways to honor the deceased is crucial to the healing process. Ask your child how they want to remember the person and encourage them to tell stories, draw pictures or even bring an item to be buried with the deceased.
Don’t Force Them to Attend
It’s essential to give your child the choice of whether or not to attend. If they do want to attend, allow them to participate without forcing them to do anything. Ask them if they want to do things like go up to the casket or share a story, but let it be their choice if they act or observe.
Prepare Them for the Day
You can help children prepare for a funeral by talking to them about what to expect. Walk them through the process and let them know who and what they will see. There is a lot of information for children to digest, so don’t feel like you have to discuss everything at once.
Discuss Your Feelings
Expressing one’s feelings is a vital part of dealing with grief. Talk to your child about how you’re feeling and reassure them that your feelings and theirs are normal. When you are open about your grief, your child will have a healthy example to follow.
Talk to Them After the Funeral
In the days and weeks after the funeral, check in with your child about the experience. Ask them how they feel and if they have any questions to help them process the event.
For more information about preparing children of any age for a funeral or memorial service, visit the Funeral Service Foundation website for additional resources.